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September 20, 2010 9:41 AM   Subscribe

I go to park, and I feed the duck, and they call—I talking with the ducks... I said, "You remember the man who gave you the food? He is in a prison. Ask the God to help him."

Amy Goodman from Democracy Now interviews Rabiha Al Qassab about the plight of her husband, Ramze Shihab Ahmed. The couple had escaped to Britain to avoid persecution by Saddam Hussein in the late 90s, but since he returned to Iraq save his son from prison one year ago, he has been incarcerated without trial and allegedly tortured.

(The interview contains graphic descriptions of torture.)
posted by notion (39 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I can't speak about the legitimacy of this particular story, but it is my belief that Democracy Now is a terrible journalistic organization. I'd compare it to Fox News if it had a comparibly sized audience.
posted by cman at 10:10 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Democracy Now should absolutely never be called journalistic.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:23 AM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Please enlighten me. Why is Democracy Now so bad? I've watched it a few times and it always seems on the up and up, journalism-wise.
posted by lagreen at 10:32 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow the DN! hate is a new thing for me, the Wikipedia article doesn't seem to have any indication of problems with the show that would usually show up under a 'Controversies' section or similar. Can somone point this Canadian to any compelling reason to not view them as legitimate?
posted by Space Coyote at 10:33 AM on September 20, 2010


Why is Democracy Now so bad?

Democracy Now's agenda is central and the news is peripheral.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:44 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


cman and Threeway Handshake: not journalistic.
posted by 3.2.3 at 10:45 AM on September 20, 2010


I like Democracy Now! quite a lot and find them to be credible. Their coverage of global & national events are more exhaustive than mainstream news outlets and are more grassroots oriented. As someone who has worked years with social justice organizations with expansive inter/national networks, they are reporting stories that are otherwise not being heard. It's quite incredible that things are happening in our own cities and people remain largely ignorant because it isn't being covered on the 10 o'clock news.

The comparison to Fox news is completely baffling.
posted by loquat at 10:46 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


They're heavily left-leaning, underdog-rooting, but I've missed the un-journalistic angle. I knew a few journalism students in college who were part of the college radio station when we started playing DN in the mornings, and they had nothing bad to say of the programming (one supported their message, but she might be a leftie, too, though she now works in a mainstream station).

Comparing them to Fox News is apt if you view corporate agenda on par with social justice advocacy (as compared to no bias, which is hard to actually pull off). It shouldn't be surprising they also side with Palestine on I/P conflicts.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:52 AM on September 20, 2010


Democracy Now's agenda is central and the news is peripheral.

What's their agenda? It's not apparent to me in watching the program or reading their twitter feed.
posted by lagreen at 10:52 AM on September 20, 2010


And back on topic, from another source: British man among 30,000 held in Iraq without trial (Telegraph UK).
posted by filthy light thief at 10:55 AM on September 20, 2010


I agree with most of Democracy Now!'s "agenda". But they do have an agenda, their standards are often sloppy, and I know I'm often not getting an evenly-handled account of events. In short, it's Fox News for liberals. It's great that they cover a lot of interesting things, but I grew up where all media was part of a propaganda machine, and I find it offensive, even when our views are shared.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 10:56 AM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


DN! Is not my favorite news program and the anchors sometimes rub me the wrong way, but there is now way they can be said to be similar to FOX News.
posted by MrBobaFett at 10:57 AM on September 20, 2010


Comparing them to Fox News is apt if you view corporate agenda on par with social justice advocacy

That very phrasing presupposes agreement with a particular set of politics, which goes back to the point about agenda over news. I don't know that much about Democracy Now!, and I don't know whether the argued bias is actually exists or to what extent, but in any such situation saying "I agree with their agenda and not with agendas on the opposite side of some issues" is not equivalent to "They do not have an agenda".
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:58 AM on September 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm only concerned about an agenda when it gets in the way of the facts. Is there evidence of that happening? It's demonstrable with FOX; if it's not equally so with Democracy Now, the parallel is a poor one. The former is a machine of propaganda, and that's a heavy charge to lay upon a news organization without backing it up.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:00 AM on September 20, 2010


There's also a HUGE difference between a 24-hour news channel which has a vast array of programming and personalities spouting the same party line non-stop, echoing each other's talking points, and glossing over the hard facts of stories which do not support their central thesis, and a program like DN! which is on for an hour a day, has very limited resources, and is willing to report in-depth on both sides of the story.

If they do have any "agenda" at all, it is to bring to the fore a lot of the human rights and genuine grassroots social movements which are struggling against oppression from government or corporations. Many of these struggles are not covered by any other news outlet, and if a viewer comes to DN! from that context, it does appear that they have an "agenda", simply because they are talking about issues which are more genuine and life-impacting for many Americans and which sort of demand a political response from the viewer.

You certainly won't see much coverage of Paris or Britney or Lindsay on DN!, nor you will find the typical local news "there are bad people everywhere, murdering and stealing, so be afraid and stay indoors" kind of stories.

And the last I checked, Amy Goodman is the ONLY major news anchor who has been dragged off by police while covering major stories because she wasn't content to stay in the "safe zone" and accept pre-created media bites from the organizers and authorities.

If that's an "agenda", I don't have much problem with it.
posted by hippybear at 11:12 AM on September 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


I have never seen any evidence of Democracy Now being blatantly misleading about any facts, but it's depressing to realize that shooting the messenger is still more popular than dealing with reality.

If this story was about the same thing happening in Iran, it would be plastered on the front pages trumpeting their amoral standards, followed by calls to invade to prevent further injustice. When it turns out that our presence doesn't change a thing, those same voices are curiously silent.
posted by notion at 11:31 AM on September 20, 2010


I love good journalism, but one problem that is plaguing the media right now is that it is not at all obvious which media organizations you can trust. It is a very easy matter to find "journalism" which reinforces any viewpoint. One way I decide what to trust is to listen to reports on issues about which I am already quite familiar. If I hear omissions or manipulations of facts, how could I ever trust them?

With DN I'll speak to one frequent topic of theirs: Israel/Palestine. In this case I made my judgement very quickly, partly because there was another VERY good show on (Forum) at the same time.

This is the basis for my (admittedly pretty strong) opinion:

-I used to switch between KQED (which plays NPR news) and KPFA (which plays DN) in the morning. One day some Gazans shot rockets into Israel and the IDF responded with a helicopter strike. NPR reported it as I just did. DN only mentioned the Israeli response, omitting the fact that it was a response at all.
-They put Norman Finkelstein on the air as if he is a serious human being.
-As others have mentioned there is a clear agenda on the I/P conflict.

Good journalism (like that of NPR, KQED's Forum, or PBS's Frontline) does as good a job as possible of having no agenda other than reporting important information accurately. DN and Fox News both have agendas.

One credit I will give to DN is that they get some very interesting interviews and report some stories that would not otherwise be reported, such as in the OP. But why should I trust them?
posted by cman at 11:31 AM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


cman, just because you disagree with the conclusions of someone doesn't mean you should say they are liars. Those are two different issues.

I watched the debate between Dershowitz and Finkelstein, and Finkelstein mopped the floor with Dershowitz because he had plainly performed better research. Dershowitz had plagiarized his ideas from someone else and used motion pictures as references. So while you may disagree with Finkelstein's conclusions, I challenge you to present a lie he has told.

And on that subject, provide a transcript of the DN broadcast you're talking about. I think it's likely that you chose to hear something omitted because of your biases against Democracy Now for the sin of criticizing Israel.
posted by notion at 11:42 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


for the sin of criticizing Israel.

Woah woah woah. You're missing the point greatly. At least for me, I'm on DN's "side." I get particularily angry at "my side" when they do the same shit as say, Fox News, and cheerfully leave out important things. Just because I really would like to believe one side, doesn't mean that the other is bad and this one is good.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:51 AM on September 20, 2010


Threeway, on this point I cannot budge. Even soft criticism of Israel is received with reactionary madness by both "sides" for reasons that I can empathize with, but which are also plainly irrational.
posted by notion at 12:13 PM on September 20, 2010


Pardon me, but the subject of criticism of Israel seems to have strayed far afield from the subject of the post. As it is a pretty contentious topic, I wonder if we could move back to the original subject?
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:21 PM on September 20, 2010


Leftist? Why, because their ideology is different than the "Right-wing nuts" on Fox? I appreciate DN!! The events they choose to cover aren't the easiest and certainly not the ones we read in our daily papers or hear about on the news.

I don't see DN! falling on any extreme end of the spectrum. Their reporting is the more successful of attempts to present both sides of a story. They're not being liberal, or leftist or have an agenda -- unless defending democracy is a conspiracy. It's called being critical. Critical examination of facts is what's happening and since it's not modeled very well by mainstream media, I guess it's become difficult to recognize?

My personal political views aside, and I wish I could bite my tongue about the I/P thing, I've seen on both sides of many stories and let me tell you, when and if those sides ever meet, it's like a whole new picture. Oh and you'd be surprised how many Israelis, when confronted by the experience of the Palestinians find themselves being challenged to re-examine their thoughts and beliefs. When their whole life has been about life on one side of the proverbial "wall".. How powerful is that?
posted by loquat at 12:24 PM on September 20, 2010


What I read in that Telegraph article is terrible, it seems not much has changed in Iraq since the pre-invasion days.
posted by waxboy at 12:38 PM on September 20, 2010


Christ. So basically, the one thing that the pro-invasion people throw down as their trump card, that of ending Saddam's reign and human rights abuses, doesn't hold water either? So now when someone says "guess you'd rather Saddam was still in charge?" one can respond, "yeah, because about the only real difference is that hundreds of thousands of people would still be alive and our deficit would be the odd coupla trillion dollars smaller."
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:02 PM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Good journalism (like that of NPR, KQED's Forum, or PBS's Frontline) does as good a job as possible of having no agenda other than reporting important information accurately. DN and Fox News both have agendas.

Yeah, DN has an agenda. Their agenda is democracy. And now. "Lefty" as that is. Which should be the agenda of all good journalists. If you don't have that agenda, you prima facie cannot be good journalists. DN might be the only good journalists. Which is where I assume any DN-hate comes from. DN and Frontline have about equally compatible "agenda."
posted by 3.2.3 at 1:08 PM on September 20, 2010


Can somone point this Canadian to any compelling reason to not view them as legitimate?

I have no problem with them as an advocacy group, indeed I think their goals are admirable. They don't cut for me as a news organization, because they editorialize constantly and frequently mischaracterize or or only superficially acknowledge viewpoints with which they disagree.

Again, that's just fine in terms of advocacy. But if you relied on DN as your primary news source, you would be just as poorly informed as if you relied on Fox News for that purpose. I know, Fox is part of a global 24-hour megacorporation and is staffed with snarling neanderthals, whereas DN is broadcast from a cardboard box or something and is very much a labor of love. I respect the sincerity and tenacity that goes into it, but I still don't consider it proper news, any more than I do Fox.

By 'news' I mean comprehensive reports on the world as it is, not as I think it ought to be or through the lens of any particular political philosophy. It's not 'hate' to say you don't think a media outlet reaches that standard - emotive characterizations of this kind are exactly what I dislike about tabloid media in the first place.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:43 PM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


So basically, the one thing that the pro-invasion people throw down as their trump card, that of ending Saddam's reign and human rights abuses, doesn't hold water either?
That's part of the conversation I would like to have seen, but perhaps that conclusion is too hot to handle. It's easier to talk about whether reporting on this primary source qualifies as journalism, which is interesting in it's own way.
posted by notion at 2:21 PM on September 20, 2010



But if you relied on DN as your primary news source, you would be just as poorly informed as if you relied on Fox News for that purpose.

Since you posted the above I have to imagine you really believe it.
posted by notreally at 2:33 PM on September 20, 2010


Amnesty International: Thousands of Iraqi detainees at risk of torture after US handover
posted by homunculus at 2:48 PM on September 20, 2010


When a news organization omits facts to shape how a story is received then they are not journalists. DN has it's own agenda and it shows in how they cover their stories. While it's impossible to be completely unbiased personally, I do not think that personal feelings should get in the way of covering facts.

I'm an Anthropology major and we have the same problem as journalists of being biased. You do not have to accept the target culture's practices to learn about them and try to understand why they do it. So while I personally don't agree with how Israel is handling themselves, self censoring to build a stronger case against them is not the solution.

Most news networks do this and so does DN. I think NPR is excellent in how they try to get rid of their own biases, but it will always be something that everyone needs to work on.

Also please don't make this a strawman where anyone who disagrees with how great DN is has to be a fascist.
posted by Allan Gordon at 3:25 PM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also please don't make this a strawman where anyone who disagrees with how great DN is has to be a fascist.

No one made that strawman, but for all of this decrying of DN, I have yet to be pointed to a transcript or clip that provides any evidence for the claim that they omitted information. It's an assertion that's been made three times already, but with zero evidence to back that claim up. I don't deny that at some point in the past they have done it, perhaps even to pursue an agenda once or twice, but to call that very human behavior a lack of journalistic standards is quite a leap.

The thing about Fox and NPR and other media organizations is that to push an agenda, they simply don't cover stories like this. They don't cover stories about UN resolutions against Israel. They don't cover lawsuits against oil companies in Ecuador or Nigeria. They don't say anything that could possibly reduce their access to the government or to advertisers. As the Iraq War demonstrates, that can have some serious consequences.
posted by notion at 3:59 PM on September 20, 2010


So, I'm reading The Count of Monte Christo right now. One of the main themes: once a prisoner, guilt is assumed. Even after governments are overthrown, those in prison tend to stay there. Which is kind of odd, right? One would assume that the prisoners of a ruthless dictator ought to, at the very least, get some sort of review from their liberators, right? Cuz, we're the good guys. Right?

Also, maybe we need a new law. Like Godwin's, only for people who reflexively compare anyone or anything to Fox News. Actually, when you consider how well Fox's MO compares to Nazi propaganda, then it looks like Godwin's Law still applies.

Woot! I just double-Godwinned.
posted by fartknocker at 4:28 PM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


This thread is heavily implying the middle way fallacy; or the idea that objectivity is a middle road, rather than what it should be. If it was the case that Fox News was wrong simply because it was right wing, for example, then opposite leaning DN would be mostly right, rather than likewise wrong for being reversely analogous to Fox News. Neutrality is a separate issue. We try to have it both ways with the middle road, and that's not to say the middle is therefore wrong as a fact, only as a reason.
posted by Brian B. at 7:03 PM on September 20, 2010


DN just depresses me. Today they were bashing Harry Reid for being a moderate centrist. When Amy asked about Reid's work on DADT repeal, the guest said, "well that's just cynical politics." They were suggesting that the Tea Party isn't a real movement of voters, but just some boogieman invented by the democrats (rather than a bunch of real reactionaries). It just reminds me why the left always loses power so quickly. Any compromise that achieves progress is torn apart and anything really progressive that might slip through isn't celebrated. DN's sole function seems to be to demoralize democrats and progressives. Democracy only works through compromise and coalitions. DN seems setup to split up the left and demoralize any progressive coalition. I'm reminded of Randi Rhodes saying to Ralph Nader, "I can't afford you."
posted by humanfont at 6:54 AM on September 21, 2010


Michael Ware, Former CNN War Correspondent, Speaks Out On Alleged War Crime CNN Refused To Air
posted by homunculus at 9:19 AM on September 21, 2010


humanfront, you left out the rest of his point: he goes on to criticize Obama and everyone else who is suddenly finding it important to pursue DADT during election season, even though it's common knowledge that they don't have enough votes to pass it. That is cynical politics, just like it's cynical politics for other politicians to campaign on overturning Roe v. Wade when that's not going to happen either.

You'll have to provide some more info on the Tea Party thing. I didn't hear that but it's been busy here at work. Are you talking about the Christine O'Donnel thing? They were saying that MSNBC is doing a poor job by focusing on a fringe politician instead of real issues, like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I would gently suggest that if progressives had compromised in the 1960s, racism might still be an institution in the US. Dr. King was criticized constantly for demanding full and equal rights without exception, just as Mandela and Ghandi were. If they had compromised on abortion rights, thousands of young women would still be dying from botched procedures. If they had compromised in the early part of the 20th Century, we might still be working 60 hours a week in unsafe jobs without the right to form unions.

I'm glad to have DN around, simply because they are perhaps the only American news organization with the tiniest bit of resources that is not beholden to corporate or government interests, and they are one of the only organizations to criticize left and right with equal zeal. If you want to tune in for some cheerleading, though, you're right: DN probably isn't the source for you.

In today's broadcast, they discuss how the Obama Administration has issued the death sentence to an American Citizen without any trial whatsoever. This is a heinous breach of our Constitutional Rights, but no one else is willing to really take issue with that. The most you'll see anywhere else is a reprint of AP wires.
posted by notion at 9:28 AM on September 21, 2010


I would gently suggest that if progressives had compromised in the 1960s, racism might still be an institution in the US. Dr. King was criticized constantly for demanding full and equal rights without exception, just as Mandela and Ghandi were.

The Civil Rights act of 1964 was compromise legislation. The original stronger bill had to be abandoned in favor of one that could get passed. Mandela compromised with De Klerk and Ghandi's compromises with the British could fill a book.
posted by humanfont at 10:25 AM on September 21, 2010


Mandela compromised with De Klerk and Ghandi's compromises with the British could fill a book

But apparently not a comment.

"Any compromise on mere fundamentals is a surrender. For it is all give and no take."
posted by notion at 11:33 AM on September 21, 2010


Superbombs and Secret Jails: What to Look for in WikiLeaks’ Iraq Docs
posted by homunculus at 12:08 PM on October 15, 2010


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